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Digital Collections @ LakeMac Libraries

The decision to consider our digital titles as part of the mainstream library collection was made at the outset. 

To achieve this, we identified that:

  1. Our borrowers needed to see the collection – catalogue integration
  2. Our staff needed to understand the collection – training
  3. We needed to sell the collection –  marketing
  4. We needed a big enough collection to provide choice for our customers – investment

Due to the age of the LMS at LakeMac Libraries, the cataloguing of the digital collection was a manual process.  Our suppliers, Bolinda (Borrowbox), James Bennett (Axis360), and Wavesound (Zinio) worked with us in providing Marc records that were then manually uploaded into our system.  This meant that our borrowers could find both our print and digital holdings via the netOPAC.  It required significant staff hours to achieve, but was successful in that it exposed our total collection through a simple OPAC search.  The current LMS is at the end of its lifecycle, and catalogue integration and a single discovery layer are top priorities in specifications for a new LMS. LakeMac Libraries also has a subscription to Freegal music, which does not form part of the catalogue.

Staff training was identified as key to the success of the digital collections.  Wavesound provided a trainer for Zinio, and all staff attended hands on training before the collection went live. With Axis360 and Borrowbox, the library Technology Officers undertook in-depth training using the supplier provided training notes and webinars.  They then developed a training package for each product.  This package consisted of a hands on training session for all staff; a set of staff training notes for each branch; an FAQ and cheat sheet for each branch; and a set of training notes for on-training the public.  The same notes package was developed for Zinio after the supplier provided training session. 

On the library website, there are comprehensive User Guides on the ecollections page for every digital product.  These guides include how to download via PC, or via tablet or smart phone.  There are links for Adobe, Blio reader and to the Apple and Android Apps page for each product.  We have tried to provide all the information that a novice would need to self-start with digital collections, both in user guides and FAQs.

The library also provides hands on lessons at every branch.  Borrowers can book for a one-on-one with a staff member, and there are regularly run small group lessons.  To ensure that the user gets the most from the session, several questions are asked at the booking stage to determine the borrower’s level of understanding of their device, of the digital environment, and any specific goals they might have for the lesson.  The library Technology Officers are available to support staff with this training.  They also monitor upgrades and update the staff with new training notes when required.  Innovations by suppliers, such as moving to a new app, are advertised to all staff, and via the library website to our users. 

The library website is heavily used to market the collection, with ecollections having a tab on the home page; news and updates appearing as banner news stories; and small group training sessions listed in the library ‘What’s On’.  The library has also branded all the notes for the public training sessions, so if they are passed from hand to hand in the community, it is obvious where they are from, and where more assistance can be found. These pages can be downloaded from the library web page at any time. 

There is no doubt that there are several barriers to success in digital collections.

  • Staff can become disengaged with the digital collection as loans generated are not linked to their individual branch location, and current network issues are making it extremely hard to demonstrate the products within branches (can take up to an hour to download as eBook to a device).  A planned network and telecommunications upgrade by March 2016 should address this issue.
  • The lack of bestseller and popular fiction available in eBook for libraries diminishes the collection as a whole, and dissatisfaction from staff and borrowers needs to be managed.  Promoting gems in the digital collection is very important.
  • Visits to the virtual library collection are not recorded in statistics. A borrower walking into a physical branch to browse counts as a visit, but a visit to browse the digital collection is not counted. There has also been a decline in visits to the library website, as most customers use each product app as their preferred method of access to the e-resources.  The only measure of engagement we currently have for our customers and these resources are loans.
  • Aging, or limited library management systems do not provide the ability to analyse digital collections or their usage.  Libraries are reliant on vendors for that information, which is an issue for independent analysis.

These barriers exist, but by providing access to digital titles via the catalogue; staff that are confident in using, and in training others to use the collection; and letting the community know about collection highlights, the barriers can be diminished.  A well-functioning digital collection has provided our library with a new set of users and greater engagement with our community.

This is a guest blog post by Anne Moten,  Collection Development Librarian, Lake Macquarie City Council.